Monday, January 28, 2019

Week 36/66: The Glories of the Huntington

I spent last week visiting a friend and working at the Huntington Library, and it was fabulous!  I learned new stuff, was reassured by learning some other stuff, did some organizational work, and read really neat texts.

Best of all, I learned there are some manuscripts I could look at.  And they live in the British Library, so I'll be able to look at them when I go there!

I got back yesterday evening, learned that we were expecting a big snow storm, so went and got gas for the snow thrower, and got a pizza.  Already this morning I've cleared my drive, so the gas was a good investment!  (I might have had enough, but you always want to have plenty!)

This week, I'm going to be buckling down and writing, writing, writing.  I'll also be practicing, of course.

I finished the Coursera music theory course, and am now working my way through the textbook materials for the NWU music theory course.  Fortunately, I have friends in the music department for whom music theory is second nature, so one has been checking my homework and helping me with things I find difficult.  It's fascinating and fun so far.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Delurking Week?

I gather from xykademiqz that it's blog delurking week.  So if anyone's out there, please say hello!

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Week 34/66: Happy Violin News

Work is slowly progressing.

In violin news:  I've been working on three pieces, with different emphases.

Seitz, the third piece in Suzuki book 4, has really a hard double stops passage that goes on forever.  I was working on this for a while, and then got it good enough that Strings started me on the next piece, the first movement of Vivaldi's concerto in A minor.  That one has no double stops, but serious shifting, and some fast passages where you have four notes, and one changes and the other three repeat, and so on, with other changes.


Those are difficult for me.  First, I tend to mess up the rhythm, so I have to work slowly with a metronome.  Second, well, string crossings!  (Here's Itzhak Perlman's recording.)

Finally, during viola studio, a couple of the students played a viola transcription of a violin concerto by Oskar Rieding, opus 35.  (Here's Itzhak Perlman's recording.  I don't sound this good!)  The Rieding is beautiful, really.  And it's a student piece, so not hugely difficult on the face of it.

And then there was a break while Strings and I were both away.

I have to confess, I have a pretty strong dislike of the Seitz.  The double stops get my left hand all gummed up.  But for the last week, I almost totally focused on that piece.  And it payed off!  Strings has checked it off!

She also told me that the focus of the Rieding has to be really good, smooth bowing, and that the more I pay attention to my bowing, the better.  That's a continuing thing with me (as with most students, I'd guess, you pretty much always need to improve bowing until you're darned good).

So the good news is that I can focus on Vivaldi this week, which is a total joy, though really difficult.


In other news, I'm doing a Coursera course on music theory.  It's an 8 week course that looks like it ran last year from the University of Edinburgh, and it's interesting, but also a bit irritating.  I kept failing one of the quizzes.  I finally asked Strings, who teaches music theory, one of the questions, and she explained it, but also, it was a bit unfair.  There were two or three correct answers (describing a chord), and I couldn't figure out why they wouldn't accept one of them.  But I finally passed that quiz, and now I'm onto the next section.

My plan is to then start reading the stuff from NWU's music theory courses, so that I'll get it more deeply.  I probably should have just started there, to be honest...

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Week 33/66: Welcome the New Year at the Halfway Point

Happy New Year!

My sabbatical's halfway over.  It's been glorious!

I usually give a rundown on my biking over the year, but I hardly biked this year.  Going on a long trip, even though I took my bike and used it a few times, really breaks up the summer and the biking mojo.

When I got back from my trip, it seemed to rain non-stop for three weeks.  (It didn't really, but it felt like it.)

In violin news, I'm still on book 4, though I'm working on the 3rd Seitz concerto movement and the first movement of the Vivaldi A minor concerto.  I'm also working on a violin concerto by Oskar Rieding in B minor.  I always thought "minor" meant it was going to sound saddish or something, but neither of these feels that in the least.  And the Rieding is quite surprisingly beautiful (surprising because I'd never heard of him before a couple of the viola students were playing this piece in studio).

Last year at this time, I was starting to practice again after a hiatus in the UK.  I had fun in the UK, but I'm happy to be practicing more.  There are times when I feel like I'm not making any progress, but then I think where I was with shifting and double-stopping a year ago, and I've definitely improved, especially on shifting.  Vibrato, not so much.

In 2018, kept a reading list for the first time in many years. Looking at the list, I read 52 books (not counting books for work, but including books on CD while driving). I made an effort to read books by women and people of color (recognizing that both of these categories are potentially problematic and even if they weren't, I can't necessarily tell from just names.). How did I do?
29 by women, 23 by men.
11 by women of color, 3 by men of color.
20 non-fiction (almost all the books on CD are non-fiction because I'm limited in my choices: mostly the library has non-fiction, or mysteries, or thrillers, and I avoid mysteries and thrillers; most of the books on CD seem to be by white men). 30 fiction. 1 poetry, 1 play
Top favorites for the year (in no particular order):
Tommy Orange, There There
Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
Ahmed Saddawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad
Clementine Beauvais, Piglettes
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
(Notice a pattern? Even making an effort, I didn't read that many books by people of color. And the books by women weren't among my favorites, mostly.)
The only author I read more than one book by was Louise Erdrich.

While 2018 was a political mess, it was a good year for me, personally.  
I hope 2019 holds good things, too.